Are you lonely? If you are a human in the United States statistically you are. And as a mom, I hear the cry even louder. Confined at home to nap schedules. Juggling home, work, school, kids activities. We miss having friends. It is hard to get dinner on the table for our family, let alone find time to see friends. We are in a fast moving world. Meals are eaten on the go, at a desk, in front of a tv, computer or iPad. We are in a divisive time right now. Our gatherings in social media are filled with arguments, debates, frustration. I believe these conversations are important - standing up for what we believe, civil discourse, fighting for what is right. These are all important.
What if in the midst of what seems like a chaotic and uncertain time, there was hope? What if in the midst of loneliness as a mom you could find connection? An anchor, a place we knew we could come back to and be known. In the midst of a time where it is uncertain if people will have a home, there is a place we can invite others to. A place they could call home. A small thing we could do to make our family, friends, neighborhoods and communities experience home.
Some of my earliest memories are around a table. My fondest memories are at my grandma's farm table. She was a wonderful cook. I remember her food, but what I remember most is the laughter. I remember lingering long after we were done eating, not out of obligation, but because we just loved being together, talking and laughing.
I remember going to college and one of the first things I did was gather at a professor's house for a meal. I was thousands of miles from my house and yet I was home. It was a table with good food and most of all good conversation. And of course laughter. Throughout my college years there was always an invitation to a meal. Thanksgivings, Easters, weekends. I loved Seattle for its beauty, landscape and culture, but what made it a place I called home was the countless invitations to a table. The gathering, the welcome, the conversations that kept us at the table well past eating the last bite. It was home.
In the midst of everything in our lives right now, is there room for connection? I believe there is. It may require some creativity, but I think the table is one of the simplest places we can connect.
This idea of gathering around a table has been popping up all around. It seems the simplest of ideas is catching like wildfire.
This video has been circulating the internet
Today, Neighbor's Table launched a new website. I heard about them a couple years ago on a podcast. I was drawn to the mission - a love mission to gather around the table. They make tables for people's back yards. Even more than offering a table they are offering an invitation for us to gather people at our table. Their new website includes stories of people who are gathering at their table and inviting people over. There are some great videos on the site about their mission. They have an amazing shop with two really good books. One, the Art of Neighboring, we heard about in a sermon last summer. The idea of loving our literal neighbors. It can be as simple as hosting a gathering every year. Make it a potluck. The Neighbor's Table shop also has a bag of tokens with small tasks so when people ask how they can help, you hand them a token. Sarah, the founder of Neighbor's Table believes hosting a gathering of people can be a community event where everyone lends a hand.
But Marie, my house is a mess. My kids are running around crazy. I know. I get it. I love having a clean home to invite people over in. I like having a beautiful table. I like having everything in its place before I invite others in.
But what I am learning, especially as a mom, is if I wait for life to not have a mess, I will never see anyone. If I wait for the timing to be perfect, I won't gather.
I am grateful for what I am learning from a few other women. Women that are teaching me, don't wait for perfection to invite others over.
I got to go to Myquillin's barn this past fall. It was one of the most amazing gathering experiences. It wasn't perfect. And I am so glad she didn't wait for perfection before inviting people over.
I am learning backdoor friends are the best kinds of friends.
The friendships I have been able to maintain as a mom are these backdoor friends. The ones where we enter each others mess. Where we have a playdate when our house is still sticky and littered with toys. The friendships where we are talking in the car as we run errands together. The friendships where we make dinner together while our kids play and then eat together. The friendships where I go help a friend organize a closet because that is on her to-do list today and we can talk and work while our kids play. The friendships where we can do life together side by side. We enter each others lives. These have been some of the richest friendships with kids.
I know I am giving you a lot of links and ideas of how other people are gathering at the table. But how does this translate as a mom? Here are some simple ideas that I have tried or I have seen others try:
- Eat at least one meal together as a family without any screens or distractions. Talk to each other. Laugh!
- Invite moms you know to a park and have lunch together (or a snack). Watch your kids play and talk
- Invite a friend or a mom over to your house while the kids nap. Or do life together! Help her with her day while your kids play
- Is there a meal you consistently make that has extra food - invite people over that night.
- Make a simple meal that makes a lot - spaghetti and chili are simple and can easily multiply!
- Host a potluck - everyone brings a dish. This is less work for everyone
- Join a small group at church that shares food
- Join a dinner club in your community, or start your own. Again, potluck style = less work
- Order pizza. Invite others over.
- Go out for dinner. Invite friends.
- Accept an invitation from someone else. Say yes when you are invited over!
And sometimes the simplest gesture can have the biggest impact. This Christmas we wanted to make Christmas cookies but didn't want to eat a couple dozen all by ourselves, so we bagged some up and delivered them to our neighbors. Of course it was intimidating, we are the new ones on the block! But, you know what, it made every person's day. We made a connection with each of our neighbors who were initially strangers to us. This summer we are going to host a potluck, inviting those same neighbors to our backyard. Am I intimidated? You bet. But, I know it is going to make everyone's day, including mine. Our neighborhood will be more connected. We won't be as lonely.
We eat everyday. We are all lonely. What if we went first? Connection. One meal at a time. Who can you invite for a meal?